These easy cold lunch ideas either don’t require any cooking, or are great as prep-ahead lunch leftovers for when you don’t have much time to cook!
They can all be enjoyed cold, so they’re perfect for taking on the go, to school, or to the office. Kids and adults alike will love these easy meal prep lunch recipes.
Easy Cold Lunch Recipes
It’s easier than it might seem to prep nutritious lunches for school or work that will keep you (or your kids) satisfied all afternoon long! All you need is a little recipe inspiration. 🙂
Many of these easy lunch recipes can even be made from leftovers, or from time-saving ingredients like pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.
From chicken sandwiches to quinoa salads to pasta dishes and beyond, these portable lunches are all easy to make and totally delicious. Not only are they high in protein and packed with veggies, but they’re tasty and flavorful! You’ll be looking forward to enjoying your lunch all morning long.
Plus, they can all be packed up in a lunch box (with an ice pack) and enjoyed cold. There’s no need to worry about having access to a kitchen or microwave during your busy day.
And now, without further ado: here’s the list!
These shredded chicken lettuce wraps come together super fast, especially if you use leftover/rotisserie chicken! Plus, the peanut sauce is easy to whip up (and totally delectable).
We are huge fans of lettuce wraps in this house! Just consider adding some carbs to the mix to make them more of a filling meal (I usually have some crackers or toast on the side, or you can add a grain into the wraps themselves, like rice)!
Use pre-cooked shrimp, and this salad comes together in just minutes.
I love the pillowy orzo, Greek flavors, and feta here – definitely a lunch to look forward to! Plus, it tastes great cold, so there’s no need to heat it up!
This no mayo chicken salad recipe with grapes, dried cranberries, and walnuts is creamy, crunchy, and super flavorful! It’s packed with protein and super versatile.
Enjoy it in a sandwich, a wrap, with crackers, or on its own!
Grain salads are one of my favorite easy lunches, and this one is no exception!
Using salsa as the dressing adds a ton of flavor. And if you use leftover brown rice (or any cooked grain you have on hand), this is easily a no-cook meal!
Here’s a classic with a lighter spin: tuna salad made with avocado (no mayo!).
It’s super flavorful and delish as a sandwich, a wrap, with crackers, or even as a snack with crunchy veggies.
You can never go wrong with a flavorful pasta salad, and this is one of our favorite go-tos. The recipe makes a lot so we usually enjoy it for dinner and then enjoy the leftovers for lunches!
Toss together your favorite veggies, leftover pasta, mozzarella cheese, and a creamy Italian dressing (recipe included), and you’ve got yourself a crave-worthy meal.
This salad brings together tasty Mediterranean flavors for a perfect, easy-prep lunch!
The quinoa and chickpeas add protein/staying power, the feta adds a rich saltiness, and the veggies add even more deliciousness. Mediterranean grain bowls are my absolute favorite.
Another classic lunch option, but with a twist!
This egg salad recipe uses fresh herbs and creamy avocado instead of mayo for a lighter – but even tastier – version.
Enjoy in a sandwich, wrap, with crackers, crunchy veggies, on its own… any way you like!
One taste of this sage butter sauce, and you’ll be hooked! Sliced chicken sausage, tender butternut squash, and spinach come together for the perfect fall-inspired lunch.
Using pre-cooked chicken sausage makes this pasta recipe quick and easy, and you can use any type of pasta you like. (If you’re gluten-free, chickpea spirals are delicious here!).
Have leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken on hand?
Stuff some pita pockets with veggies (like spinach, cucumber, and tomato), chicken, cheese, and hummus for a delightful, portable lunch.
This pesto pasta is another yummy dinner that also makes a great lunch leftover!
Pack it up and enjoy it cold, just like any pasta salad. It’s packed with flavor and super nutritious!
This simple wrap recipe features sliced turkey, savory bacon, veggies, and Greek yogurt (or your favorite sauce) for an easy meal prep lunch!
Try it with this creamy honey mustard sauce for an extra burst of delicious flavor. And feel free to add your favorite veggies, too – load it up!
This is one of my all-time favorite portable lunches! It’s essentially a taco salad, but with quinoa for extra staying power. And it only takes a few minutes to throw together!
Even better is the amounts of everything are flexible – it’s a sort of “no recipe” recipe.
This salad packs all the best things about fall into one dish!
Refreshing watermelon, baby kale, farro, and feta cheese are tossed in an amazing apple cider dijon dressing. And don’t forget the added crunch from the crispy roasted chickpeas and chopped pecans!
For another delicious variation, check out this post: Harvest Bowls with Sweet Potato.
Bright flavor, shredded chicken, pillowy pasta, and veggies make this a fabulous pasta lunch recipe! It comes together quickly and easily, and you can use rotisserie chicken to make it even quicker.
I love cherry tomatoes and softened kale in this dish, but you can easily swap the tomatoes out for bell peppers or mushrooms, and the kale out for spinach. Or whatever sounds good to you!
Juicy apples, creamy white beans, crunchy cabbage, and apple cider vinaigrette… what more could you ask for?!
Feel free to toss in some extra protein, like chicken, for even more staying power – and serve it with a side of toast or crackers for some carbs!
This salad might be on the summery side, but who says it can’t be enjoyed year round? It’s crisp, crunchy, and refreshing, with a drool-worthy sesame dressing and juicy shrimp.
And of course, I can’t forget sandwiches!
Here are some of my favorite mix and match sandwich recipes to get you inspired (including the chicken banh mi sandwich pictured below). 🙂
I hope this list gives you some inspiration for cold lunch ideas, whether you’re enjoying them at home or on the go!
Let me know your favorite cold/portable lunch in the comments below!